A weblog by Will Fitzgerald

Someone (finally) takes on the 'churlishness' of Richard Dawkins

Bullied and Brainswashed.

What ought to be a fascinating discourse–What made us? How? Why?–instead too often becomes an occasion for childish name-calling on both sides. Isn’t there some way we can discuss God versus Darwin in civil tones?

And don’t get me started about the Flying Spaghetti Monster rhetoric.


7 responses to “Someone (finally) takes on the 'churlishness' of Richard Dawkins

  1. John Wiseman December 22, 2005 at 3:11 pm

    Argh. One of my favorite comments on the Flying Spaghetti Monster: “Spaghetti Monster, after only a month or so, feels like week 46 of All Your Base.

    (I realize this may be construed as getting you started.)

  2. Will December 22, 2005 at 3:59 pm


    It turns out that Ron Garrett is taking on some of the churlishness, too: See Why do atheists have to be so obnoxious?.

  3. Tim Converse December 22, 2005 at 7:18 pm

    That’s funny – I’m a huge Dawkins fan, and was just about to blog about his latest book, which I love. (It’s nothing about this aspect of his writings, though….)

    I guess, as I think about it, that he’s pretty obnoxiously and agressively atheistic and Darwinian, but at the same time I also think: so what? How many aggressive, obnoxious and totalizing _public_ atheists does the world have, compared to the number of aggressive, obnoxious and totalizing public fundamentalists (of whatever religion)? Any reason that theists should have a monopoly on this kind of thing?

  4. Will December 22, 2005 at 9:12 pm

    Well, Tim, I guess I’ll mostly just repeat the quotation:

    What ought to be a fascinating discourse–What made us? How? Why?–instead too often becomes an occasion for childish name-calling on both sides. Isn’t there some way we can discuss God versus Darwin in civil tones?

    I’m hoping “aggressive, obnoxious and totalizing _public_ theists” are taken to task, too–but should anti-fundamentalists have a monopoly on doing so? (But let’s do so civilly, of course–as, I think, Gregg Easterbrook, does in his essay.

  5. Tim Converse December 23, 2005 at 2:22 am

    Well, here’s hoping that we haven’t crossed the bounds of civility yet, in this thread, so we don’t have to scold each other yet. If you think we have, let me know.

    If we’re saying that neither fundamentalist theists nor fundamentalist atheists should be particularly outspoken or proselytizing or caustic, then I could live with that, if we all agreed. (It would be stifling yet civil.) If you’re saying that everyone should feel free to speak their view of the universe from the rooftops, then I could live with that also. (It would be uncivil yet unstifling.) As it is, though, focusing on Dawkins in a world that contains Pat Robertson and many many repressive Muslim clerics just seems weird to me. Dawkins expressing himself just feels like “equal time”. And in fact, I think that on average, atheists are more reticent in this regard than religious fundamentalists are. The only reason Dawkins is getting attention is because he is blunt and caustic (for an atheist, that is — he has not yet predicted, for example, that an entire city will soon feel the wrath of evolutionary theory).

    Anyway, if you feel that churlish and overly outspoken atheists are either an important problem to address, _or_ a problem that receives less-than-proportional attention compared to the negative influence of religious fundamentalism on the world, then I can understand your focus on taking those atheists to task.

  6. Will December 23, 2005 at 5:37 pm

    Just the later, with a focus on the churlishness. Robertson has rightly come in for much criticism. I certainly don’t mind outspokenness and vigorous, even heated, debate. But Dawkins said:

    It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).

    And despite his defense he only meant that most such people are just ‘ignorant,’, I say it’s still name-calling. Further, statements like:

    To fill a world with religion, or religions of the Abrahamic kind [i.e., Christianity, Islam, Judaism], is like littering the streets with loaded guns.

    (from Design for a faith-based missle) really make me wonder if this is just an instance of vigorous debate, or something much more hateful. In other words, he’s out-Robertsoning Robertson: condemning not just one city, but over half the world’s population.

  7. Will December 23, 2005 at 5:41 pm

    I realized that comment systems–which weren’t available, perhaps, way back in 2000–makes it a lot easier to argue by weblog.

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